Green Party presidential hopeful says he was fired as rabbi because of Israel criticism
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Green Party presidential candidate Dario Hunter of Youngstown stated Wednesday that he has been fired from his job as a rabbi -- either, as he claims, because of comments he made criticizing Israel, or because of fears his presidential campaign would distract from his rabbinical duties, as a temple leader has said.
In a news release, Hunter said that board members of Congregation Ohev Tzedek-Shaarei Torah in Boardman notified him of his job termination in writing on Wednesday morning.
Hunter asserted the reason was because of his statements in a Feb. 19 cleveland.com story that the United States should stop providing any aid to Israel because of that country’s “horribly atrocious” treatment of Palestinians.
“I do not believe the United States should be providing any form of aid to Israel or any human-rights abusers,” Hunter said at the time.
After the story was published, Hunter stated that the temple’s executive committee informed him that such statements were incompatible with being a rabbi. Hunter said he replied that he stood by what he said.
“On the way out of the synagogue after giving my last d'var Torah (sermon), a congregant stopped me and told me that he was sorry to see me go but that I should be able to understand that the synagogue wanted a rabbi that reflected its values -- specifically, the ‘value’ of funding Israel,” Hunter stated.
Neither Hunter nor Congregation Ohev Tzedek immediately returned phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.
However, in an interview last week, temple co-president Neil Yutkin told cleveland.com that Hunter wasn’t being scrutinized because of his Israel comments, but because of concerns that his presidential campaign would take up too much of his time to perform his job as a rabbi.
“It wasn’t based on the article that was written,” Yutkin said. “It was based on the fact that he has a full-time job, and he has [been] running full-time and that he will be traveling a great deal for the campaign. That doesn’t leave much time for the temple.”
In his release, Hunter disputed that he was fired because of his presidential campaign. “No one can (nor should) find this explanation credible,” he wrote.
Hunter has also been serving as coordinator for Jewish life and intersectional programming at the College of Wooster. A college spokesman confirmed that Hunter still held that position on Wednesday.
The son of an Iranian Muslim father and a black Christian mother, Hunter is considered the first Muslim-born person to be ordained as a rabbi. After graduating from Princeton University, he earned a law degree in Canada, then worked as an environmental lawyer in Israel before settling on the south side of Youngstown.
In his interview with cleveland.com earlier this month, Hunter said he’s running for president because he wants to ensure that the “voices of the marginalized and disenfranchised” are heard in the 2020 presidential race.
“I have that background that speaks to all of the issues of fundamental fairness and justice that the Green Party espouses – an openly gay black Jewish man who’s the son of an immigrant,” Hunter said.